By Ganga Nair
SACRAMENTO, CA – Now facing trial, defendant Frank Alcaraz’s bail was heavily debated in Sacramento County Superior Court Tuesday with defense attorney David Grow and prosecution attorney Stephanie Aarseth arguing over a case that can result in lower bail requirements for defendants.
Based on the “Humphrey” case, decided earlier this year, the prosecution pushed a motion to set a bail amount for Alcaraz, citing the severity of the charges the defendant faces.
The Humphrey case, as upheld by the CA Supreme Court, found that the state’s “pervasive practice of requiring money bail in most cases is unconstitutional and courts must consider all non-monetary alternatives to detention,” unless there was a major threat to public safety.
Alcaraz was charged with three new counts Tuesday and now has 21 charges, all alleging lewd acts on a minor. Alcaraz’s offenses date back to 2008, when the victim was under the age of 14.
In order to set bail, Deputy District Attorney Aarseth cited the victim’s recollection of the events, arguing that Judge Geoffrey Goodman “didn’t give the facts of the case its fair weight.”
The victim reported that the sexual assault began when she was around 10 years old, and “ramped up” when they moved from Modesto to Sacramento. DDA Aarseth then goes into detail of the sexual acts Alcaraz allegedly committed, as reported by the victim.
The sexual violence intensified as she grew older, and the defendant manipulated the victim on multiple occasions. The prosecution illustrated – with examples of the abuse – the detrimental effects of Alcaraz’s alleged sexual violence, explaining that his potential release was harmful to the victim’s mental health.
Prosecution notes that the defendant admitted to the victim’s mother that he did commit sexual acts on the victim.
Aarseth concludes, “I do believe that the conduct in this case is particularly egregious. I think that the conduct reflects his potential danger to society, to being around children. I don’t think an order to stay away from children will prevent him…He has the ability to commit these crimes.”
Defense attorney Grow then refuted the prosecution’s argument, citing “the brave new world under Humphrey.”
Grow argued, “money is not the measure of danger to the community. Raising his bail to ensure he’s not a danger is not a standard before us.” He explained how all the facts of the case were available before, and Judge Goodman still did not set bail, due to the standard Humphrey sets.
Grow stated, “Judge Goodman got it right…That’s a fair conclusion to come to, to focus on the public safety issue instead.” Defense argues that Alcaraz has not violated any of the terms of his initial probation, not approaching or communicating with the victim nor has he gone near the victim’s home.
Grow made it clear that he did not intend to impose on the victim’s anxiety, however that does not change the fact that a bail does not need to be set since the defendant is following all instructions set by his probation.
He concluded “He’s proven why Humphrey’s can be a good law-he’s done everything that’s been asked of him and to punish him, remand him…would be a derogation of Humphrey’s in my view.”
Judge Helena R. Gweon stated that despite the prosecution’s claims that an assessment of the facts was not clear, “There are no new facts…this is not an appellate process…I assume and do have confidence that Judge Goodman weighed all the facts.”
Although she “sympathized with the victim’s plight,” Judge Gweon denied the prosecution’s motion, siding with the defense and Judge Goodman’s decision.
The defendant chose not to have a preliminary hearing, pleading not guilty to all 21 counts. A bail was not set, in light of the Humphrey case and the court’s inability to set bail in a manner that prevents defendants from being free, solely because they cannot afford that freedom.